On my Tuesday morning drive to ‘save my life school’, I noticed I was experiencing an odd feeling for anxiety day; calmness. “How do you think today will be for you?” asked AB. “I’m not sure”, I replied. “But I think I’ve come to the realization that it’s going to be what it’s going to be.” AB swung her head my way and gave me the serious ‘I don’t believe you Kissy’ look. “No, really!” I continued. “I can’t change the way it’s taught, and I always walk away from every class with a poignant lesson, so as long as the girl with the relentless phlegmy cough keeps her germs to herself, I will just try to breathe my way through it.” AB gave me the ‘MmmmHmmm’ look, but then said, “I’m proud of you Kissy.”
After finding my seat (as far away as possible from germ-girl), we were of course handed a multiple paged, double-sided booklet to read. Breathe, here we go. But something odd happened again as the teacher started reading! Drum-roll please!… I learned something in paragraph 1 on anxiety day! My jaw dropped as I heard the teacher say, “It’s entirely normal to experience feelings more intensely when you begin to face situations you’ve been avoiding for a long time. If this is happening to you, you’re on the right track.” So feeling extra anxious on anxiety day was what I should have been feeling all along? Eureka! Furthermore, “Many people who are prone to anxiety tend to withhold their feelings which only aggravates stress and anxiety more”. Soooo let me get this straight, my ranting blogs on anxiety day were healing for me? Nice! Apparently feelings are not ‘right’ or ‘wrong’; feelings simply exist. The perceptions or judgements we make which lead to the feelings, however, may be right or wrong. I also learned that overtime the practice of continually suppressing your feelings can lead to increased difficulty in expressing or even identifying them. *Announcement to all those parents out there! When the process of suppression begins in childhood we can grow up feeling completely out of touch with our feelings, leaving only a feeling of emptiness. So when your child is crying…they are sad. When they yell…they are mad; and those feelings are OK! *
As we continued onto page 261 of appendix B, part 2 of the 2nd edition, (Ok, I’m exaggerating for effect), something else in the reading rang true to me with regards to my EMS family and suppressing our feelings. “In some cases anxiety and panic itself may be a signal that suppressed feelings are trying to emerge.” Interesting. I knew that my anxiety didn’t occur at work, but that may be because it didn’t have time to set in until I was home. We, as first responders, are accustomed to suppressing our feelings at work largely due to the fact that we don’t have the time to deconstruct a call that may be causing us anxiety or worry. In fact, we are often sent to the next call without even completing our paperwork. Our patients rely on our ability to be ‘on’ and focused for that next call, so we have no choice but to suppress any lingering feelings from the previous call. Likewise, according to our reading, every feeling carries a ‘charge of energy’, and when we hold that energy in and do not give it expression, it may create a state of tension. I can definitely relate to that! After a long day of back-to-back calls, my shoulders are like rocks and my irritability is an 11/10. Fellow paramedics can I get an AMEN! But if I have enough down time to eat my lunch, pee when required, and decompress after every call, I feel less tense when I get home, and I may not need to resort to that huge glass of wine to unwind. Wow, I may change today’s name from ‘Torturous Tuesday’ to ‘Tell me like it is Tuesday”!
The last big point I could relate to today was that once we learn how to identify our feelings, the next step is learning how to express them. This usually involves being willing to share your feelings with others. Check. And that we may choose to ‘write out’ our feelings to express them. Double check! 😉
“Kissy, was anxiety day actually GOOD today?” Why yes it was AB. Yes it was.